The average person has about 50,000 thoughts trailing through their minds everyday. In the hours we spend awake, these thoughts range from where our next class is, to where we left our house keys. But the one thing that we usually forget to think about, until our stomachs remind us, is what are we going to eat.
It’s very easy for someone to get into the habit of grabbing food on the way to class. You think, “I’m only dropping ten bucks, why not?” Well, think about it. If you were to buy lunch everyday for a week, you’d be spending about seventy dollars, which is approximately the same price as that sweater you’ve been debating over at Urban Outfitters. I’ve been there: you’re sitting in CoGro and you think, “I’ll just have a bagel”, or you’re in Stauffer and you run and grab a Pita Pit. But this should be a once in a while luxury. As students, we need to remember to budget ourselves, as well as to make sure that the food we put in our bodies is keeping us energized and full, not making us hungrier and slowing us down. Cooking shouldn’t be something we fear, or something we don’t want to do- it should be part of our daily routines. Making cooking a part of your day-to-day routine is going to affect your body, budget, and may even buy you a few extra t-shirts. Just like anything else in life, there is an easy way and a hard way. Thankfully, in the kitchen the easy way tastes just as good.
Meal planning isn’t a horribly difficult task, but it does entail five steps that will help ensure maximum effect and ultimate deliciousness.
Step 1: Plan your meals on Sunday and Wednesday.
Meal planning is a really helpful way to keep your budget intact. On Sunday, plan out your meals for the next three days, and do the same for Wednesdays. This planning makes the grocery shopping experience a little less painful as well. Instead of roaming the aisles thinking that you could make a gourmet meal, but settling instead on ramen noodles, you should know exactly what you’re looking for the second you walk through those doors. Plan your meals for Monday, with the intention to use Sunday night’s leftovers for your packed lunch. The best way to do this is to compartmentalize your leftovers, and decide what would taste good together the next day without being heated up. Usually this is your leftover protein thrown into a salad.
Step 2: Have key ingredients that you stock up on every week
Every time you hit up Metro, you should be picking up a couple of specific items that are multipurpose, as well as freezer friendly. Lettuce is key, as it can go in sandwiches, wraps, pastas, and the most obvious, salad. A protein of your choice is also something that is very useful in the kitchen. Chicken is my personal favorite- it can be used in almost anything, and with 21g of protein you can’t go wrong. Men need about 56g of protein a day while women need about 46g. This means that if you put one chicken breast in your salad, you’re getting around half of your daily protein intake. This is great for both your body and your mind.
Step 3: Make something from nothing, and then eat it
Most types of the daily food we eat are fairly easy to make from scratch. Salad dressing, for instance, is one of the easiest things to whip up. Usually people will spend three dollars on a bottled dressing they could make better themselves, with double the calories and fat. Another thing to keep in mind with salad dressing is that, because the base is olive oil, it doesn’t go bad and can be reused several times throughout the week.
Hardboiled eggs are another great way to utilize your groceries. It takes ten minuets to boil as many eggs as will fit into your pot of boiling water. These eggs unpeeled will last seven days in the fridge, and can go in just about anything. They also taste pretty great on their own, and if on that fifth day you haven’t used them all, you can make a chopped egg salad.
Step 4: Snacks, snacks and more snacks
This is where my heartstrings are pulled. I love snacking, and I especially love going to the Grocery Checkout to buy something I can devour while I do my readings. But snacking should be a controlled and regimented way to stay energized. There are many tasty, portable snacks that will keep you going throughout the entire day. Fourteen almonds, one hard-boiled egg, a Baby Bell Light paired with some apple slices… all of these snacks will keep you satisfied, and will make you feeling even better.
Step 5: The art of Tupperware
Tupperware is to a student what a minivan is to a soccer mom – necessary. Available in multiple sizes, shapes, and material, Tupperware is an extremely effective way to pack your food. On the go, leftovers and even previously wrapped items fit perfectly into these plastic (or occasionally glass) containers.
There you have it! Five ways to enhance the way you buy, eat, and save. Now, I’m not saying that these are tools that you need to live by. Everyone has their moments of weakness, but follow these rules and I promise your wallet, and waistband, will thank you.
Nicole Richie, Online Contributor
Photography: Nicole Richie